Are probiotics for Helicobacter pylori infections useful? A common question with a range of answers depending on who you ask. As I was finishing up a previous article discussing different approaches to treating gut infections I came across a review discussing the use of a particular, well studied probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, in the alleviation of stomach issues for people with a Helicobacter pylori infection. Probiotics and the gut microbiota are the hot thing on the block at the moment and are getting quite a bit of attention, thankfully. Today we will cover whether probiotics for Helicobacter pylori infections can be helpful.
A Primer On H. pylori
Helicobacter pylori is a gram negative bacteria that commonly infects the human stomach. Infections are common, more common in developing countries, and H. pylori is strongly associated with different gastrointestinal issues including peptic ulcers, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) and, in a very small subset of those infected, gastric cancer (1). For a deeper dive see here – Helicobacter Pylori – A Notoriously Popular Bacteria
Probiotics For Helicobacter pylori Infections
Some of you that have been around for awhile may recognise this particular train of thought. Previously I have covered probiotics for Helicobacter Pylori and have reviewed the benefits of one particular probiotic for Blastocystis hominis infections. Today we will cover a review that explores the benefits of one particular strain of probiotics, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, not in eradication measures but in reducing the pathogenic nature of Helicobacter pylori on the gastric mucosa.
When it comes down to it inflammation is the driving force behind the disease sequelae associated with H. pylori. Looking for ways to minimise inflammation can be helpful in relieving symptoms. Here is where the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, or LGG, comes into play. Having the ability to reside in the gastric environment (unusual for many probiotic bacteria due to the high acidity of the stomach) LGG has a direct inhibitory effect on Helicobacter pylori. It inhibits the pathogenic bacteria in a number of different ways including
- Competition for binding sites
- Reducing the inflammatory response set off by H. pylori
- Producing antimicrobial substances
All good points. The last point may be worth covering in a bit more depth as it is something that most people are not familiar with. This relates to probiotics for Helicobacter pylori and many other gut infections. Many probiotics (possible all of them, I’m still unclear here) act as antimicrobial agents by secreting different substances (3, 4). Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in particular secretes lactic acid as an antimicrobial agent which helps to increase the permeability of the cell wall of Helicobacter pylori. LGG is also a fermenting bacteria, producing short-chain fatty acids, notably butyrate, which helps by reducing inflammation, oxidation, improves intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut), and can improve your immune function (5).
Are Probiotics A Standalone Intervention for H. Pylori?
Similar to Blastocystis hominis and other gut infections I feel that probiotics have earned their place in the treatment protocols. As we have seen they have shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms of infection and can improve eradication rates when used in combination with antimicrobials. From my experience I wouldn’t hang my hat on them as a stand alone treatment for gut infections. Used alongside well considered herbal antimicrobials, pomegranate husk comes up again here (6, 7) and anti biofilm agents (if indicated) probiotics can be of great benefit to gut health in many infections, including Helicobacter pylori.
Now I want to hear from you. Have you used probiotics to help with your gut health. What ones helped? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
References and Resources
- Review article: the global emergence of Helicobacter pylori antibiotic resistance
- The Probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus for Alleviation of Helicobacter pylori-Associated Gastric Pathology in East Africa.
- In Vitro Anti-Helicobacter pylori Activity of the Probiotic Strain Bacillus subtilis 3 Is Due to Secretion of Antibiotics
- Probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri biofilms produce antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory factors
- Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases
- The Pomegranate: Effects on Bacteria and Viruses That Influence Human Health
- Medicinal plants in the treatment of Helicobacter pylori infections